“The infinite existence of an immortal soul. To experience life after life, unending, till eternity. Is it truly that desirable?”
***The Eternal Battlefield***
I drop the Emperor's body to the ground and watch his soul dissipate, being literally fried by the enchantments on my sword. The mouth of the ghostly afterimage opens, screaming in pain. There is no sound. If he ever reincarnates, he will be nothing more than a mere mortal, forced to start from zero.
Nova gets back to her feet, but as she does so, she cries out and reaches for her head, shuddering.
Not finding anything wrong with her, I turn my attention to Sirra and Rufus. Zane is doing a pretty good job in holding the Holy Mother at bay. They are having a very unimaginative magical duel, blasting each other with spells and counter-spells, searching for a weakness in their opponent's protections.
The real problem, and the reason why Nova cried out is that Rufus managed to free himself from her familiar. The secret leader of the Consortium looks a little chewed up, but he managed to stab Lucifer in the shoulder. The ghost-cat hisses at Rufus and circles him warily. It’s much larger than my own, presumably because Nova fed it her energy. And since he is Nova's familiar, she got a good taste of the cat's pain when it got wounded.
“Call him back,” I order and raise my hand to cast a spell.
The cat shrinks and disappears into the ground, returning to hiding. One moment later, I unleash my spell, throwing a spectral lump of energy at Rufus. He notices the attack just in time and uses his ability to fade out of sight.
“Damn him!” Nova stretches out her hands. “He is using some kind of spacial ability, but no more!” Shaping all the energy at her disposal, she casts a complex spell and aims it above our heads. An orb of energy shoots upwards. It radiates pure power, giving me the feeling that Nova channelled a lot of her mana into that spell. The orb looks like a wildly fluctuating fractal of light. It hangs above us for several long moments, then I feel its effect.
My magic, my power reserves, seem to shake and vibrate wildly and I have to pay my full attention not to lose control of my power. The magical battle between Zane and Sirra is interrupted, as both of them are having trouble to cast spells. With renewed effort, they resume their duel.
In the meantime, I try to keep my attention everywhere at once, trying to anticipate where Rufus might appear next. I don't want Nova or Zane to die at the Eve of our victory.
Nova and I both knew that no plan is perfect. Even if Nova's secret trap succeeded, it was likely that some of our foes would escape, so we needed a way to secure our supremacy.
To use me as a hidden ace was obvious, so we had to make it look like I was out of the picture to draw in our enemies. Rufus, Sirra and Jules would have never risked an attack if I had been at Nova's side. The answer was to fake an argument between me and Nova, hoping that whoever was spying on us wouldn't know us well enough to smell the trap.
Then I sent off a battle-group of my ships, while I stayed hidden on Illum, waiting for an opportunity.
Rufus reappears, holding his head. He retches, strongly affected by Nova's spell. It seems like she created some sort of spacial effect which acts like a sound-based attack. The leader of the Consortium drops to his knees while Nova sashays forward to meet him.
She grabs his hair and pulls his head back, then she slams the claws of her left hand into his chest. Bones break and cartilage crunches as her fingers dig through his chest cavity, removing his heart in an almost surgical process. My granddaughter smiles as Rufus's aura, together with his heart, is ripped out of his body and transferred to her.
I watch the impossibility in awe and can't help but feel a little proud and envious at my disciple's achievement. She managed something I didn't expect was possible. To displace a soul's metaphysical connection to the real world is unheard of. She literally took his soul.
But it seems like Rufus isn't completely done for. As he topples forward, his eyes glazing over, he flicks out his hand towards Sirra. Fading into existence, the spell projector appears in front of the woman.
Crying out in joy and with a prayer on her lips, she throws herself forward and smashes the device with a single strike. Her hand comes free, holding the largest mana crystal I have ever seen. Raising the item towards the heavens, she incites ancient words, waves of power coming off of her.
Zane, Nova and I are already moving by that point.
I don't know about Zane, but Nova and I at least know about mana crystals. They are the holy grail of magic. Many tried to make use of the unimaginable power within them. If they are carefully used to power an artefact, even a small crystal can last indefinitely.
More than once I foolishly tried to use a mana crystal's energy directly, tapping into that seemingly unending well of godlike power. I always ended those particular lifetimes in a very flashy and painful manner. Like... world-ending flashy and painful! There is no way to tell what will happen if Sirra taps into such a large crystal.
The woman is mad! There is no way that she can control the power.
We desperately try to approach her, but the sheer power she is tapping into makes it impossible. She ends her incantation with a plea, rather than an actual spell. “I beg ye, oh, Glorious One! I summon you! Smite these heretics! And invite the worthy to your paradise!”
The mana crystal pulses and a pillar of blinding light stabs down from the skies! Sirra doesn't even have time to scream before her body is completely obliterated, turned to ash within an instant!
Then, Nova is there. She enters the pillar of light, touching the crystal. “Nova!” I call out to her, wishing for the mad woman to retreat. I try to go and get her, advancing with all the gathered might at my disposal, but a surge of power comes down from the heavens and pushes me back. The sheer force takes me off my feet and I scream in frustration. To have all this power, yet be powerless in the face of such a cataclysmic item.
As suddenly as everything went south, it is over.
The light and the pressure are gone and I find myself lying on my back. The environment is completely silent, only the slight howl of the wind can be heard.
Sitting up, I find the mana crystal hovering in the air. Its glow has dimmed considerably. The power inside it is almost gone and as I watch, it dissolves into light as if it never existed. Desperate, I look for Nova, but just like the crystal and Sirra, there is no trace of her.